Craving is being considered for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) DSM-5. However, little is known of its genetic underpinnings – specifically, whether genetic influences on craving are distinct from those influencing DSM-IV alcohol dependence.
Analyses were conducted in a sample of unrelated adults ascertained for alcohol dependence (N=3976). Factor analysis was performed to examine how alcohol craving loaded with the existing DSM-IV alcohol dependence criteria. For genetic analyses, we first examined whether genes in the dopamine pathway, including dopamine receptor genes (DRD1, DRD2, DRD3, DRD4) and the dopamine transporter gene (SLC6A3), which have been implicated in neurobiological studies of craving, as well as alpha-synuclein (SNCA), which has been previously found to be associated with craving, were associated with alcohol craving in this sample. Second, in an effort to identify novel genetic variants associated with craving, we conducted a genomewide association study (GWAS). For variants that were implicated in the primary analysis of craving, we conducted additional comparisons - to determine if these variants were uniquely associated with alcohol craving as compared with alcohol dependence. We contrasted our results to those obtained for DSM-IV alcohol dependence, and also compared alcohol dependent individuals without craving to non-dependent individuals who also did not crave alcohol.
Twenty-one percent of the full sample reported craving alcohol. Of those reporting craving, 97.3% met criteria for DSM-IV alcohol dependence with 48% endorsing all 7 dependence criteria. Factor analysis found a high factor loading (0.89) for alcohol craving. When examining genes in the dopamine pathway, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in DRD3 and SNCA were associated with craving (p<0.05). There was evidence for association of these SNPs with DSM-IV alcohol dependence (p<0.05) but less evidence for dependence without craving (p>0.05), suggesting that the association was due in part to craving. In the GWAS, the greatest evidence of association with craving was for a SNP in the integrin alpha D (ITGAD) gene on chromosome 7 (rs2454908; p=1.8×10−6). The corresponding p-value for this SNP with DSM-IV alcohol dependence was similar (p=4.0×10−5) but was far less with dependence without craving (p=0.02), again suggesting the association was due to alcohol craving. Adjusting for dependence severity (number of endorsed criteria) attenuated p-values but did not eliminate association.
Craving is frequently reported by those who report multiple other alcohol dependence symptoms. We found that genes providing evidence of association with craving were also associated with alcohol dependence; however, these same SNPs were not associated with alcohol dependence in the absence of alcohol craving. These results suggest that there may be unique genetic factors affecting craving among those with alcohol dependence.
With the use of a new cohort of adolescent subjects, predictors from the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA) interview and the Achenbach Youth Self Report (YSR) were combined to model age of first drink (AFD).
Subjects consisted of 820 adolescents (ages 14–17) drawn from the current phase of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. Three Cox proportional hazards models were considered. Model 1 contained SSAGA variables equivalent to AFD predictors from our previous study: interview age, family history of alcohol dependence, and number of conduct disorder symptoms. Model 2 incorporated 2 additional SSAGA questions (best friends drink and smoked a cigarette before a reported AFD) plus 8 YSR-derived scale scores. Model 3 was a reduced version of model 2, retaining only significant predictors.
Model 2 was a significant improvement over model 1. Model 3 was the best and the most parsimonious of the 3 with respect to likelihood ratio and Wald χ2 tests and retained only 5 variables from model 2. Included variables were the following: (1) best friends drink, (2) membership in a high-risk alcohol dependence family, (3) number of conduct disorder symptoms, (4) YSR externalizing score, and (5) YSR social problems score.
Adding variables to those from our original study improved our ability to model the likely age of alcohol initiation. In addition to the SSAGA, the YSR appears to have utility as a research tool to predict the age of alcohol initiation.
alcohol/drug use; age of first use; predictor variables; modeling age of first use
The detection and replication of genes involved in psychiatric outcome has been notoriously difficult. Phenotypic measurement has been offered as one explanation, although most of this discussion has focused on problems with binary diagnoses.
This article focuses on two additional components of phenotypic measurement that deserve further consideration in evaluating genetic associations: (1) the measure used to reflect the outcome of interest, and (2) the developmental stage of the study population. We focus our discussion of these issues around the construct of impulsivity and externalizing disorders, and the association of these measures with a specific gene, GABRA2.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Data were analyzed from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism Phase IV assessment of adolescents and young adults (ages 12–26; N = 2,128).
Main Outcome Measures
Alcohol dependence, illicit drug dependence, childhood conduct disorder, and adult antisocial personality disorder symptoms were measured by psychiatric interview; Achenbach youth/adult self-report externalizing scale; Zuckerman Sensation-Seeking scale; Barratt Impulsivity scale; NEO extraversion and consciousness.
GABRA2 was associated with subclinical levels of externalizing behavior as measured by the Achenbach in both the adolescent and young adult samples. Contrary to previous associations in adult samples, it was not associated with clinical-level DSM symptom counts of any externalizing disorders in these younger samples. There was also association with sensation-seeking and extraversion, but only in the adolescent sample. There was no association with the Barratt impulsivity scale or conscientiousness.
Our results suggest that the pathway by which GABRA2 initially confers risk for eventual alcohol problems begins with a predisposition to sensation-seeking early in adolescence. The findings support the heterogeneous nature of impulsivity and demonstrate that both the measure used to assess a construct of interest and the age of the participants can have profound implications for the detection of genetic associations.
GABRA2; association; impulsivity; sensation-seeking; externalizing; adolescence
The low level of response (LR) or sensitivity to alcohol is genetically influenced and predicts heavy drinking and alcohol problems. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies using cognitive tasks suggest that subjects with a low LR process cognitive information differently after placebo and alcohol than those with a high LR, but no studies have evaluated if similar LR group differences are seen during an emotional processing task.
fMRI data were gathered from 116 non-alcoholic subjects (60 women) following oral placebo or ~0.7 ml/kg of ethanol while performing a modified emotional faces processing task. These included 58 low- and high-LR pairs matched on demography and aspects of substance use.
Blood alcohol levels and task performance were similar across LR groups, but low LR subjects consumed ~ 0.8 drinks more per occasion. Thirteen brain regions (mostly the middle and inferior frontal gyri, cingulate, and insula) showed significant LR group or LR by placebo/alcohol condition interactions for emotional (mostly happy) faces relative to non-face trials. Low LR subjects generally showed decreasing BOLD response contrasts across placebo to alcohol, while high LR showed increasing contrasts from placebo to alcohol, even after controlling for drinking quantities and alcohol-related changes in cerebral blood flow.
Thus, LR group fMRI differences are as prominent during an emotional face task as during cognitive paradigms. Low LR individuals processed both types of information in a manner that might contribute to an impaired ability to recognize modest levels of alcohol intoxication in a range of life situations.
fMRI; alcohol sensitivity; emotional stimuli; fear; Hariri; alcoholism
Chromosome 7 has shown consistent evidence of linkage with a variety of phenotypes related to alcohol dependence in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) project. Using a sample of 262 densely affected families, a peak lod score for alcohol dependence of 2.9 was observed at D7S1799 (Wang et al., 2004, Hum Mol Genet). The lod score in the region increased to 4.1 when a subset of the sample was genotyped with the Illumina Linkage III panel for the Genetic Analysis Workshop 14 (GAW14; Dunn et al., 2005, BMC Genetics). To follow-up on this linkage region, we systematically screened SNPs across a 2 LOD support interval surrounding the alcohol dependence peak.
SNPs were selected from the HapMap Phase I CEPH data to tag linkage disequilibrium bins across the region. 1340 across the 18Mb region, genotyped by the Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR), were analyzed. Family-based association analyses were performed on a sample of 1172 individuals from 217 Caucasian families. Results: Eight SNPs showed association with alcohol dependence at p<0.01. Four of the eight most significant SNPs were located in or very near the ACN9 gene. We conducted additional genotyping across ACN9 and identified multiple variants with significant evidence of association with alcohol dependence.
These analyses suggest that ACN9 is involved in the predisposition to alcohol dependence. Data from yeast suggest that ACN9 is involved in gluconeogenesis and the assimilation of ethanol or acetate into carbohydrate.
genetics; association; linkage disequilibrium; alcohol dependence; ACN9
Nicotine dependence is a highly heritable disorder associated with severe medical morbidity and mortality. Recent meta-analyses have found novel genetic loci associated with cigarettes per day (CPD), a proxy for nicotine dependence. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the importance of phenotype definition (i.e. CPD versus Fagerström Test for Cigarette Dependence (FTCD) score as a measure of nicotine dependence) on genome-wide association studies of nicotine dependence.
Genome-wide association study
A total of 3,365 subjects who had smoked at least one cigarette were selected from the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment (SAGE). Of the participants, 2,267 were European Americans,999 were African Americans.
Nicotine dependence defined by FTCD score ≥4, CPD
The genetic locus most strongly associated with nicotine dependence was rs1451240 on chromosome 8 in the region of CHRNB3 (OR=0.65, p=2.4×10−8). This association was further strengthened in a meta-analysis with a previously published dataset (combined p=6.7 ×10−16, total n=4,200).When CPD was used as an alternate phenotype, the association no longer reached genome-wide significance (β=−0.08, p=0.0007).
Daily cigarette consumption and the Fagerstrom Test for Cigarette Dependence (FTCD) show different associations with polymorphisms in genetic loci.
Introduction and Aims
A low level of response (LR), or low sensitivity, to alcohol is a genetically-influenced characteristic that predicts future heavy drinking and alcohol problems. While previous analyses of how LR relates to heavier drinking reported the process is similar in males and females, some potential sex differences have been identified. This difference is further explored in these analyses.
Design and Methods
Prospective structural equation models (SEMs) were evaluated for 183 young adult females and 162 males, none of Asian background, from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). Invariance analyses and SEM evaluations by sex were used to compare across females and males for these primarily Caucasian (75%), non-Asian young (mean age 19) subjects.
The prospective SEM for the full set of 345 subjects had good fit characteristics and explained 37% of the variance. While the initial invariance analyses identified few sex differences, comparisons of correlations and direct evaluations of path coefficients across males and females indicated that only females showed a link between a low LR and future alcohol problems that was partially mediated by more positive alcohol expectancies and drinking to cope. These sex differences were reflected in the different structures of the SEM results for female vs. male subjects.
Discussion and Conclusions
These prospective results indicate that there might be some important sex differences regarding how a lower LR relates to alcohol outcomes that should be considered in protocols focusing on preventing the impact of LR on future drinking problems.
drinking; alcoholism; sex; genetics; structural equation models
A low level of response (LR) to alcohol is an important endophenotype associated with an increased risk for alcoholism. However, little is known about how neural functioning may differ between individuals with low and high LRs to alcohol. This study examined whether LR group effects on neural activity varied as a function of acute alcohol consumption.
30 matched high- and low-LR pairs (N=60 healthy young adults) were recruited from the University of California, San Diego and administered a structured diagnostic interview and laboratory alcohol challenge followed by two fMRI sessions under placebo and alcohol conditions, in randomized order. Task performance and BOLD response contrast to high relative to low working memory load in an event-related visual working memory (VWM) task was examined across 120 fMRI sessions.
Both LR groups performed similarly on the VWM task across conditions. A significant LR group by condition interaction effect was observed in inferior frontal and cingulate regions, such that alcohol attenuated the LR group differences found under placebo (p<.05). The LR group by condition effect remained even after controlling for cerebral blood flow, age, and typical drinking quantity.
Alcohol had differential effects on brain activation for low and high LR individuals within frontal and cingulate regions. These findings represent an additional step in the search for physiological correlates of a low LR, and identify brain regions that may be associated with the low LR response.
Level of response; fMRI; visual working memory; cerebral blood flow
Excessive alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death and is highly correlated with alcohol dependence, a heritable phenotype. Many genetic factors for alcohol dependence have been found, but many remain unknown. In search of additional genetic factors, we examined the association between DSM-IV alcohol dependence and all common copy number variations (CNV) with good reliability in the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment (SAGE).
All participants in SAGE were interviewed using the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA), as a part of three contributing studies. 2,610 non-Hispanic European American samples were genotyped on the Illumina Human 1M array. We performed CNV calling by CNVpartition, PennCNV and QuantiSNP and only CNVs identified by all three software programs were examined. Association was conducted with the CNV (as a deletion/duplication) as well as with probes in the CNV region. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was used to validate the CNVs in the laboratory.
CNVs in 6q14.1 (P= 1.04 × 10−6) and 5q13.2 (P= 3.37 × 10−4) were significantly associated with alcohol dependence after adjusting multiple tests. On chromosome 5q13.2 there were multiple candidate genes previously associated with various neurological disorders. The region on chromosome 6q14.1 is a gene desert that has been associated with mental retardation, and language delay. The CNV in 5q13.2 was validated whereas only a component of the CNV on 6q14.1 was validated by qPCR. Thus, the CNV on 6q14.1 should be viewed with caution.
This is the first study to show an association between DSM-IV alcohol dependence and CNVs. CNVs in regions previously associated with neurological disorders may be associated with alcohol dependence.
Copy Number Variations; Alcohol dependence; CNV Accuracy
Event-related oscillations (EROs) represent highly heritable neuroelectric correlates of cognitive processes that manifest deficits in alcoholics and in offspring at high risk to develop alcoholism. Theta ERO to targets in the visual oddball task has been shown to be an endophenotype for alcoholism. A family-based genome-wide association study was performed for the frontal theta ERO phenotype using 634583 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) genotyped in 1560 family members from 117 families densely affected by alcohol use disorders, recruited in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. Genome-wide significant association was found with several SNPs on chromosome 21 in KCNJ6 (a potassium inward rectifier channel; KIR3.2/GIRK2), with the most significant SNP at P = 4.7 × 10-10). The same SNPs were also associated with EROs from central and parietal electrodes, but with less significance, suggesting that the association is frontally focused. One imputed synonymous SNP in exon 4, highly correlated with our top three SNPs, was significantly associated with the frontal theta ERO phenotype. These results suggest KCNJ6 or its product GIRK2 account for some of the variations in frontal theta band oscillations. GIRK2 receptor activation contributes to slow inhibitory postsynaptic potentials that modulate neuronal excitability, and therefore influence neuronal networks.
Both linkage and association studies have been successfully applied to identify disease susceptibility genes with genetic markers such as microsatellites and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs). As one of the traditional family-based studies, the Transmission/Disequilibrium Test (TDT) measures the over-transmission of an allele in a trio from its heterozygous parents to the affected offspring and can be potentially useful to identify genetic determinants for complex disorders. However, there is reduced information when complete trio information is unavailable. In this study, we developed a novel approach to “infer” the transmission of SNPs by combining both the linkage and association data, which uses microsatellite markers from families informative for linkage together with SNP markers from the offspring who are genotyped for both linkage and a Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS). We generalized the traditional TDT to process these inferred dosage probabilities, which we name as the dosage-TDT (dTDT). For evaluation purpose, we developed a simulation procedure to assess its operating characteristics. We applied the dTDT to the simulated data and documented the power of the dTDT under a number of different realistic scenarios. Finally, we applied our methods to a family study of alcohol dependence (COGA) and performed individual genotyping on complete families for the top signals. One SNP (rs4903712 on chromosome 14) remained significant after correcting for multiple testing Methods developed in this study can be adapted to other platforms and will have widespread applicability in genomic research when case-control GWAS data are collected in families with existing linkage data.
While there is extensive literature on the relationship between the P3 component of event-related potentials (ERPs) and risk for alcoholism, there are few published studies regarding other potentially important ERP components. One important candidate is the N4(00) component in the context of semantic processing, as abnormalities in this component have been reported for adult alcoholics.
A semantic priming task was administered to non-alcohol dependent male offspring (18 to 25 years) of alcoholic fathers [high risk (HR) n=23] and non-alcoholic fathers [low risk (LR) n=28], to study whether the two groups differ in terms of the N4 component. Subjects were presented with 150 words and 150 non-words. Among the words, 50 words (primed) were preceded by their antonyms (prime, n=50), whereas the remaining 50 words were unprimed. For the analysis, N4 amplitude and latency, as well as behavioral measures for the primed and unprimed words were considered.
A significant interaction effect was observed between semantic condition and group, where HR subjects did not show N4 attenuation for primed stimuli.
The lack of N4 attenuation to primed stimuli and/or inability to differentiate between primed and unprimed stimuli, without latency and reaction time being affected, suggest deficits in semantic priming, especially in semantic expectancy and/or post-lexical semantic processing in HR male offspring. Further, it indicates that it might be an electrophysiological endophenotype that reflects genetic vulnerability to develop alcoholism.
Semantic priming; N4; alcoholism; high risk; endophenotype
Twin studies provide strong evidence that there is a shared genetic liability that predisposes to a number of different psychiatric outcomes related to behavioral disinhibition. Further, alcohol dependence comorbid with other disinhibitory disorders is particularly heritable. Chromosome 2p14–2q14.3 has been linked to multiple psychiatric conditions related to behavioral undercontrol. In the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), we previously reported linkage to this region with alcohol dependence (AD), suicide attempts (SUI), and conduct disorder (CD). In this study, we follow-up on these previous reports of linkage by combining the phenotypes in analyses that jointly consider the presence of multiple conditions. Linkage analyses of the combined phenotype of AD with CD or SUI results in a maximum LOD score of 5.4 in this region. In addition to this primary linkage peak, independent samples have reported linkage to other alcohol-related phenotypes across chromosome 2. Accordingly, we followed-up these linkage signals by testing for association with SNPs across chromosome 2 in a case–control sample, in which a subset of the cases consisted of alcohol-dependent probands from the linkage sample. We find evidence of association with the combined AD with CD or SUI phenotype, with 23 genes surviving permutation testing. The number of associated genes across the chromosome may explain the persistent linkage findings reported on chromosome 2 across a number of independent studies of alcohol and disinhibitory phenotypes. Further, none of the genes were located directly under the primary COGA linkage peak, which has implications for association tests following-up linkage peaks.
alcoholism; genetics; linkage; association; behavioral disinhibition
Depression and alcohol dependence are common psychiatric disorders that often co-occur. Both disorders are genetically influenced, with heritability estimates in the range of 35–60%. In addition, evidence from twin studies suggests that alcohol dependence and depression are genetically correlated. Here we report results from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of a comorbid phenotype in which cases meet the DSM-IV symptom threshold for major depressive symptomatology and DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence.
Samples (N=467 cases and N=407 controls) were of European-American descent, and were genotyped using the Illumina Human 1M BeadChip array.
Although no SNP meets genome-wide significance criteria, we identify ten markers with p-values < 1 × 10−5, seven of which are located in known genes, which have not been previously implicated in either disorder. Genes harboring SNPs yielding p<1 × 10−3 are functionally enriched for a number of gene ontology categories, notably several related to glutamatergic function. Investigation of expression localization using online resources suggests that these genes are expressed across a variety of tissues, including behaviorally relevant brain regions. Genes that have been previously associated with depression, alcohol dependence, or other addiction-related phenotypes – such as CDH13, CSMD2, GRID1, and HTR1B – were implicated by nominally significant SNPs. Finally, the degree of overlap of significant SNPs between a comorbid phenotype and an alcohol dependence-only phenotype is modest.
These results underscore the complex genomic influences on psychiatric phenotypes, and suggest that a comorbid phenotype is partially influenced by genetic variants that do not affect alcohol dependence alone.
genetics of alcoholism; comorbidity; genetic risk; depressive syndrome
A low level of response (i.e., a low LR) to alcohol is a genetically influenced phenotype that predicts later alcoholism. While the low LR reflects, at least in part, a low brain response to alcohol, the physiological underpinnings of the low LR have only recently been addressed.
Forty-nine drinking but not yet alcoholic matched pairs of 18-25-year-old subjects (N = 98; 53% female) with low and high LRs as established in separate alcohol challenges were evaluated in two event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) sessions (placebo and ~ 0.7 ml/kg of alcohol) while performing a validated stop signal task. The high and low LR groups had identical blood alcohol levels during the alcohol session.
Significant high versus low LR group and LR group × condition effects were observed in blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal during error and inhibitory processing, despite similar LR-group performance on the task. In most clusters with significant (corrected p<.05, clusters >1344 μl) LR group × alcohol/placebo condition interactions, the low LR group demonstrated relatively less, whereas the high LR group demonstrated more, error and inhibition-related activation after alcohol compared to placebo.
This is one of the first fMRI studies to demonstrate significant differences between healthy groups with different risks for a future life threatening disorder. The results may suggest a brain mechanism that contributes to how a low LR might enhance the risk for future heavy drinking and alcohol dependence.
alcohol; reaction; risk; fMRI
A variety of species and experimental designs have been used to study genetic influences on alcohol dependence, ethanol response, and related traits. Integration of these heterogeneous data can be used to produce a ranked target gene list for additional investigation.
In this study, we performed a unique multi-species evidence-based data integration using three microarray experiments in mice or humans that generated an initial alcohol dependence (AD) related genes list, human linkage and association results, and gene sets implicated in C. elegans and Drosophila. We then used permutation and false discovery rate (FDR) analyses on the genome-wide association studies (GWAS) dataset from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) to evaluate the ranking results and weighting matrices. We found one weighting score matrix could increase FDR based q-values for a list of 47 genes with a score greater than 2. Our follow up functional enrichment tests revealed these genes were primarily involved in brain responses to ethanol and neural adaptations occurring with alcoholism.
These results, along with our experimental validation of specific genes in mice, C. elegans and Drosophila, suggest that a cross-species evidence-based approach is useful to identify candidate genes contributing to alcoholism.
Many states require screening of individuals arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) to determine recidivism risk and the need for treatment based on severity of alcohol problems. Several screening instruments use DSM-IV criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence to assess alcohol problems in this population, but whether they adequately measure alcohol problems in individuals with DUIs has not been examined. In addition, gender differences in DUI samples suggest that female offenders have more severe alcohol problems than male offenders. The current study examines differences in alcohol criteria functioning by DUI history and gender using an item response theory (IRT) approach.
Data from diagnostic interviews with 8605 participants in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism, including 1655 who ever reported a DUI arrest (20% women), were used to examine differences in alcohol criteria functioning between men and women with and without DUIs. The factor underlying item response was conceptualized as unidimensional, representing alcohol problem severity.
Social/interpersonal problems, larger/longer, and inability/persistent desire to quit displayed greater discrimination of IRT-defined alcohol problem severity among individuals with DUIs than those without. Irrespective of DUI status, women had a higher threshold than men for time spent drinking or recovering. Women without DUIs had a higher threshold than similar men for social/interpersonal problems. Taken as a whole, the criteria yielded similar amounts of information in all groups.
DSM-IV criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence adequately detect alcohol problem severity in individuals with DUIs and some are better at detecting severity in this particularly high-risk group than in individuals without DUIs. However, the criteria as a whole are equally effective in measuring alcohol problem severity among individuals with and without DUIs, and may be used with confidence in screening DUI offenders.
DUI; Alcohol Use Disorder; Item Response Theory
A coding variant in ADH1B (rs1229984) that leads to the replacement of Arg48 with His48 is common in Asian populations and reduces their risk for alcoholism, but because of very low allele frequencies the effects in European or African populations have been difficult to detect. We genotyped and analyzed this variant in three large European and African-American case-control studies in which alcohol dependence was defined by DSM-IV criteria, and demonstrated a strong protective effect of the His48 variant (odds ratio of 0.34, 95% confidence interval 0.24, 0.48) for alcohol dependence, with genome-wide significance (6.6 × 10−10). The hypothesized mechanism of action involves an increased aversive reaction to alcohol; in keeping with this hypothesis, the same allele is strongly associated with a lower maximum number of drinks in a 24 hour period (lifetime), with p = 3×10−13. We also tested the effects of this allele on the development of alcoholism in adolescents and young adults and demonstrated a significant protective effect. This variant has the strongest effect on risk for alcohol dependence of any tested in European populations.
alcohol dependence; ADH1B; alcohol dehydrogenase; protective allele; genetics; association study
The low level of response (LR) to alcohol is one of several genetically-influenced characteristics that increase the risk for heavy drinking and alcohol problems. Efforts to understand how LR operates through additional life influences have been carried out primarily in modest sized U.S.-based samples with limited statistical power, raising questions about generalizability and about the importance of components with smaller effects. This study evaluates a full LR-based model of risk in a large sample of adolescents from the U.K.
Cross-sectional structural equation models (SEM) were used for the approximate first half of the age 17 subjects assessed by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), generating data on 1,905 adolescents (0 age 17.8 years, 44.2% males). LR was measured with the Self-Rating of the Effects of Alcohol (SRE) Questionnaire, outcomes were based on drinking quantities and problems, and standardized questionnaires were used to evaluate peer substance use, alcohol expectancies, and using alcohol to cope with stress.
In this young and large U.K. sample, a low LR related to more adverse alcohol outcomes both directly and through partial mediation by all three additional key variables (peer substance use, expectancies, and coping). The models were similar in males and females.
These results confirm key elements of the hypothesized LR-based model in a large U.K. sample, supporting some generalizability beyond U.S. groups. They also indicate that with enough statistical power multiple elements contribute to how LR relates to alcohol outcomes, and reinforce the applicability of the model to both genders.
ALSPAC; alcohol; level of response; structural equation models; adolescents
Aims: Alcohol acutely reduces agitation and is widely used in social situations, but the neural substrates of emotion processing during its intoxication are not well understood. We examine whether alcohol's social stress dampening effect may be via reduced activity in the cortical systems that subserve awareness of bodily sensations, and are associated with affective distress. Methods: Blood oxygen level-dependent activation was measured through 24 functional magnetic resonance imaging sessions in 12 healthy volunteers during an emotional face-processing task following ingestion of a moderate dose of alcohol and a placebo beverage. Results: Results revealed that bilateral anterior insula response to emotional faces was significantly attenuated following consumption of alcohol, when compared with placebo (clusters >1472 μl; corrected P < 0.05). Conclusion: Attenuated response in the anterior insula after alcohol intake may explain some of the decreased interoceptive awareness described during intoxication.
Despite twin studies showing that 50–70% of variation in DSM-IV cannabis dependence is attributable to heritable influences, little is known of specific genotypes that influence vulnerability to cannabis dependence. We conducted a genomewide association study of DSM-IV cannabis dependence. Association analyses of 708 DSM-IV cannabis dependent cases with 2,346 cannabis exposed nondependent controls was conducted using logistic regression in PLINK. None of the 948,142 SNPs met genomewide significance (p < E−8). The lowest p-values were obtained for polymorphisms on chromosome 17 (rs1019238 and rs1431318, p-values at E−7) in the ANKFN1 gene. While replication is required, this study represents an important first step towards clarifying the biological underpinnings of cannabis dependence.
Although there are multiple indications that alcohol can alter many physiological brain functions, including cerebral blood flow (CBF), studies of the latter have generally used small or modest sized samples. Few investigations have yet evaluated how CBF changes after alcohol relate to subsets of subjects with elevated alcoholism risks, such as those with lower levels of response (LR) to alcohol. This study used arterial spin labeling (ASL) after alcohol administration to evaluate a large sample of healthy young men and women with low and high alcohol responses, and, thus, varying risks for alcohol use disorders (AUD).
Healthy young adult social drinkers with low and high LR (N=88, 50% female) matched on demography and drinking histories were imaged with whole brain resting ASL ~1 hour after ingesting ~3 drinks of ethanol and after a placebo beverage (i.e., 178 ASL sessions). The relationships of CBF changes from placebo to alcohol for subjects with low and high LR were evaluated.
CBF increased after alcohol as compared to placebo in five frontal brain regions. Despite identical BACs, these increases with alcohol were less prominent in individuals who required more drinks to experience alcohol-related effects (i.e., had a lower LR to alcohol). The LR group differences remained significant after covarying for recent drinking quantities.
The results confirm that alcohol intake is associated with acute increases in CBF, particularly in frontal regions. Less intense CBF changes were seen in subjects with a genetically influenced characteristic, a low LR to alcohol, that relates to the future risk of heavy drinking and alcohol problems.
alcohol; arterial spin labeling; level of response to alcohol; alcoholism risk
Event-related brain oscillations (EROs) represent highly heritable neuroelectrical correlates of human perception and cognitive performance that exhibit marked deficits in patients with various psychiatric disorders. We report the results of the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of an ERO endophenotype – frontal theta ERO evoked by visual oddball targets during P300 response in 1,064 unrelated individuals drawn from a study of alcohol dependence. Forty-two SNPs of the Illumina HumanHap 1M microarray were selected from the theta ERO GWAS for replication in family-based samples (N = 1,095), with four markers revealing nominally significant association. The most significant marker from the two-stage study is rs4907240 located within ARID protein 5A gene (ARID5A) on chromosome 2q11 (unadjusted, Fisher’s combined P = 3.68 × 10−6). However, the most intriguing association to emerge is with rs7916403 in serotonin receptor gene HTR7 on chromosome 10q23 (combined P = 1.53 × 10−4), implicating the serotonergic system in the neurophysiological underpinnings of theta EROs. Moreover, promising SNPs were tested for association with diagnoses of alcohol dependence (DSM-IV), revealing a significant relationship with the HTR7 polymorphism among GWAS case-controls (P = 0.008). Significant recessive genetic effects were also detected for alcohol dependence in both case-control and family-based samples (P = 0.031 and 0.042, respectively), with the HTR7 risk allele corresponding to theta ERO reductions among homozygotes. These results suggest a role of the serotonergic system in the biological basis of alcohol dependence and underscore the utility of analyzing brain oscillations as a powerful approach to understanding complex genetic psychiatric disorders.
serotonin receptor gene (HTR7); serotonin receptor (5-HT7); event-related oscillation (ERO); alcohol dependence; genome-wide association study (GWAS)
The recent proposal to dissolve the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institute on Drug Abuse and create a new institute for substance use, abuse, and addiction will require significant effort by the staff of both institutes, the Advisory Councils, and outside experts to overcome complex challenges that could threaten its success. Although integration of the grants portfolios can be achieved, harmonization of goals and policies related to legal use of alcohol versus illegal consumption of drugs will present serious challenges. Consolidating the infrastructure of the two existing institutes would entail avoiding encroachment on grant funding. A new institute for substance use, abuse, and addiction would require an enormous amount of cooperation from other institutes since the portfolios of research on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse should logically be transferred to the new institute. In the near term, a structural reorganization would be less efficient and more costly than the individual institutes are currently. Increasing efficiency and reducing costs over time will necessitate careful strategic planning. Success in this difficult task would be made easier and less costly by first implementing carefully placed building blocks of increasing functional reorganization. The newly created institute should increase opportunities for specialization within disorders of addiction, attract new leadership, and build a novel strategic plan that will energize scientists and staff and incorporate ideas of stakeholders to advance the public good in preventing and treating alcohol, tobacco, and all addictions. Attention must be paid to the devil in the details.